Category Archives: Personal

Vegetarian Backpacking Meals

Vegetarian Backpacking Meals 2017As a long time backpacking guide and vegetarian myself, I’ve found ways to eat well on the trail while working with clients who may (or may not) also be veggies. It’s actually a bit of a pain to try to bring meat on the trail, other than ultra-salty jerky and wrapped sausage sticks.

For that reason, most vegetarians will find themselves eating better meals than the majority with these few vegetarian backpacking meals:

(All of my meals are based around Freezer Bag Cooking so if you’re not familiar with this method I suggest you start by reading Sarah Kirkconnel’s brand new 2016 edition FBC book.)

 

Crunchy Beans and Rice

Possibly my all time favorite for deliciousness and simplicity. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an entire shelter ask me, “What is that amazing smell?” This is an easy vegetarian meal for the trail that you’ll come back to over and over again.

If you enjoy Tex-Mex or anything resembling tasty burritos and spicy rice this is the meal for you:

What you’ll need

Pre-Trail Preparation

  1. Grab that gallon Ziploc bag and toss in your cup of minute rice, taco seasoning, and dehydrated refried beans.
  2. Crush up your Fritos and toss them in a small snack sized Ziploc bag.
  3. Put the snack bag of Fritos inside the gallon bag with your other ingredients.

On-Trail preparation

  1. Pull the snack bag of Fritos out of the gallon Ziploc.
  2. Boil enough water for the beans and rice (2 cups of water if you followed my portions).
  3. Once the water is boiling, shut off the stove and pour the water into the gallon Ziploc bag.
  4. Seal bag and let it sit until the water has been fully absorbed by rice and beans. Set up camp while this happens.
  5. Stir up meal, sprinkle crushed Fritos over it, and enjoy! Eat straight from the bag for no-mess cleanup.

Creamy CousCous

Another amazing recipe that will leave you hiking through your day just to get to camp for your dinner! Completely vegetarian backpacking meal and amazingly tasty.

This one is hearty and filling so leave plenty of time to veg out (ha, no pun intended) around camp after you eat up.

What you’ll need

Pre-Trail Preparation

  1. Add couscous, milk powder, and walnuts together in the gallon Ziploc bag.
  2. Put your olive oil in a leak proof container (I bought a pack of 8oz water bottles and drank them all – replace with olive oil).
  3. Consider adding a little extra seasoning (dry buttermilk ranch seasoning) if you want before leaving home.

On-trail Preparation

  1. Boil enough water for the couscous according to the box you used of pre-mixed couscous.
  2. Add boiling water to freezer bag.
  3. Seal freezer bag, let sit while you set up camp.
  4. Stir in olive oil before eating and mix thoroughly.
  5. ENJOY!

Conclusion

Best Vegetarian Backpacking MealsIf you enjoyed these simple vegetarian backpacking meals, please consider picking up your ingredients using the links above. The small Amazon kickback helps me keep this site running so I can keep bringing the best backpacking information available to you!

If you want more great freezer bag cooking meals for backpacking just let me know in the comment section. I love freezer bag cooking backpacking meals and it’s so much fun to share the simplicity with new hikers.

Check out my list of the most calorie dense foods if you’re looking for foods that really pack a punch on the trail.

Ethical Leave No Trace Paddling Tips

Ethical Paddling with Leave No Trace Principals

If you’ve spent time on a busy section of river corridor, then you’ve pulled up on a seemingly pristine stretch of bank overhung by weeping branches and stretched your legs as you pull on those nice sandals only to find a big old pile of unburied human poop.

Okay, maybe it was just the leftover remnants of an improvised fire ring left from the night before by some frat boys out for a good time.

Either way, as outdoor leaders and educators, it’s our job to uphold ethical backcountry travel guidelines and to make sure we teach these to our students and our friends.

Not familiar with LNT? Start here with the 7 LNT Principles.

Here’s the three most important LNT Principles as I feel they pertain to paddling:

Dispose of Waste Properly

Nothing gets my paddling hackles up so much as finding poor stewardship of our natural resources and public waterways.

Take an extra bag with you next time you paddle and pack out some trash. Hopefully others will see you setting this good example.

Make sure you take a trowel for proper human waste disposal even on short trips. You never know when you’ll have to go and every time counts. Don’t make the next kayaker have to step in it.

Canoeing

Paddling a stretch of the Au Sable River in Michigan

Need up to date suggestions and reviews on equipment that can help you haul your paddling gear, food, and waste in to and out of the backcountry? Try checking out Paddle Pursuits.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

If you find an improvised fire ring (non-established) then teach those you’re traveling with why it’s so important to only use established fire circles. Depending on what land you’re using (National Park, National Forest, Wilderness Area, etc.) it can actually be illegal to create your own fire rings.

Using established fire rings keeps the destructive impact of wilderness campfire isolated in a single location. Unless you’re traveling in very remote backcountry and need a fire while you’re kayaking please stick to established rings.

Minimizing campfire impact also means completely burning any wood that you start to combust entirely to ashes and covering the ashes or disbursing them. A great rule of thumb is to burn sticks no larger than your wrist or longer than your arm.

For a few more tips on how this LNT principle applies to paddling you can check out this article.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

This one gets overlooked so easily! For some reasons waterways tend to be one of the first destinations for rowdy and inconsiderate backcountry travelers. Bachelor parties, tubers, and other variously intoxicated paddlers seem to flock in droves to loudly make chaos and leave trash scattered about like a hurricane.

Always remember that other people are enjoying the natural resources and public lands. On waterways your voice travels quite well so keep it down.

Set up your tent and campsite well out of view from the water. Ruining visual corridors with the trendy bright neon colors used in tents and equipment right now is often overlooked. Allow others to enjoy the same undistracted view of the beautiful and wild waterways you enjoyed before setting up camp.

On the same note, respect those less considerate users of the recreational waterways but if presented the opportunity perhaps you can try to talk to them about why it’s so important to become LNT aware.

How to Teach LNT Principles

It’s important to remind people that LNT principles are guidelines and that not every situation requires the same approach. When teaching LNT I always start by asking the group to contribute their opinions about public land use and resource management. With children this is often a facilitated discussion where you’ll want to make the language digestible and appealing.

Naturally the discussion can flow into how LNT principles help us provide the framework through which to teach ethical recreational use of public and natural lands.

Check out the LNT website for LNT teaching resources and courses to become an LNT Trainer.

Take the LNT Online Awareness Workshop to see if you’re familiar with ethical backcountry travel guidelines.

Leave no trace principles are guidelines to help ensure the waterways we enjoy recreationally and professionally are kept pristine for future outdoor enthusiasts. Let’s spread the awareness!

One Fatal Mistake of Team Leaders and Managers

Hey there, fans and followers. After a long hiatus, I am back on the scene.

Let’s get right down to it: here’s one of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen managers and team leaders make over the years.

Not taking advantage of a team member’s passion and skills.

I know, it seems so obvious. And you might be saying “who is this kid to be telling me what mistakes my managers are making (or me)”?

Well you’d be right to question me up until recently: I’ve spent the last few summers running or managing (both maybe?) wilderness and adventure based trips programs.

Sure some of you have more years in the saddle than me but, as Frank Turner would say, “I’m the one who’s got the microphone here, so just remember this”.

Time and again I go into seasonal work and, either as an employee, or as a team leader I find that potential is lost because people in positions of leadership do not take the time to ask what their team is good at and passionate about.

Don’t just assume that you know everything about your employees.

Let’s use me as an example:

Just because I got on-boarded as a backpacking instructor doesn’t mean that I don’t have other skills. So many trip leading organizations are micro companies, often desperate for tangible skills.

I’ve been recruited to fix networking and WordPress issues for a company that hired and employed me as a Wilderness Programs Supervisor.

I’ve done mechanical work for nature education programs while technically working as a naturalist.

When you take the time to get to know your team (and I mean really know them) you’ll be better able to bring their skills and passions to bear in helpful ways.

So many times I have been asked by an employer to do X task when really my skills and passions are much more aligned with Y task. And there are many times when, no matter your job title, you have to put on whatever hat your employer asks of you and get the job done.

But I’m not talking about that. Let’s say you’re developing summer curriculum with a team of a dozen people. Find out what they’re all knowledgeable and passionate about and help guide them in ways to bring those skills in line with your program so that both your employee and you can benefit.

Got someone with wild edible plant creds and passion? No wild edible plants class in your lesson book? Well then sit down with them and build a new class for them to teach!

The level of investment from your instructors and return from your students will go through the roof when you empower your leaders to teach skills and information that’s already waiting to burst out of them!

I think you’ll be amazed the next time you’re leading a team and you take the time to truly get to know them. Find ways to let their passions merge with their position in your team or company.

Don’t forget; this works wonders when you’re leading trips on trail, too. Get to know your students and give them opportunities to merge their passions with your course so that their impact on the trip and other students (and yourself) can be exponentially magnified.

You’ll be happy you took the time.

 

If you’re still with me after my hiatus and still reading, PLEASE leave a comment. I really want to get to know those of you I’ve been able to help and to bring you better content personally.

Happy Trails, friends.

Do What You Love

How do I choose my Career Path?

When I was a kid I always heard “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”.

Do what makes you happy!

It’s really true! I don’t make much money, but I have some of the best jobs in the world. I get paid to play, stay in shape, challenge myself, and teach others about the wonderful challenges and experiences waiting in the world.

When I was a senior, graduating high school, I was faced with the decision of what to do with my life. What job to get. What school to attend. What degree to seek.

I knew I didn’t want to go work in a cubicle all my life. I narrowed down my options to a degree in Forestry from a major technical university. They wanted $21,000 per semester.

Then, before finalizing that commitment, I got a letter stating that I’d been accepted to a community college on an academic full ride. Financially it was an easy decision.

Some time very shortly thereafter I was watching Survivorman and realized, “Hey, they pay this guy to hang out in the wild, film himself, and practice survival. I could do that, too.”

That solidified my decision. I enrolled at the community college and took my gen eds. While taking care of my education, I researched how to become more like Survivorman.

That was the very first time I’d ever heard of Outdoor Education. I learned there was a popular school called NOLS and they had education degrees with a few colleges.

Two years later I was living in Riverton, Wyoming. I got my degree in Outdoor Education and Leadership from Central Wyoming College partnered with NOLS.

While I love my profession and all the jobs I’ve had, there have been many forks in the road recently trying to pull me away.

I love motorcycles and would like to spend more time making and repairing them. I thoroughly enjoy computer programming and have been doing it on and off since I was only twelve. I really enjoy economics and finance and would enjoy going back to school for that or, perhaps, business.

It comes back to: What really makes me happy?

I am often torn between dreams and aspirations. I love spending the winters as a ski instructor and traveling for the summers working at various adventure education establishments. The problem is: I really want to pursue many other things!

What I’ve done many times at large turning points in my life is ask myself this:

What would make you the happiest?

A year from now would I be as happy as I could be if I come back to ski?

Would I be happier finding somewhere I could work part time adventure education and part time mechanical?

Even simple decisions can be answered this way:

Would I be happier going home, saving my money, and reading a good book while eating home made dinner. Or, would I be happier if I gave in to a request to go out drinking for the evening where I would be less than productive, spend a lot of money and, sometimes, regret it in the morning?

Usually I stay home (not to say that I don’t really enjoy going out with friends on occasions!).

I’m not much of an advice guru, but this is something that has helped me many times.

Maybe you’re considering leaving your day job and becoming a rafting guide. Answer this question:

What will make me the happiest?

Five Things I’ve Learned About Ultralight Lifestyle

Over the last month or so I’ve made some huge progress toward adopting ultralight philosophy into every aspect of my life.

Here in the front country it’s not all about weight. Some of what I’ve worked toward has been lessening my financial expenditure (having an ultralight expense ratio).

Taking care of my body with the same care I would show to a cuben fiber shelter. Treating myself like the high-performance piece of gear that I am. Metaphorically speaking…

Here are a few things I’ve learned:

1. I enjoy the extra time! Selling my desktop computer and having my laptop die within the same two weeks opened up huge amounts of time. I sit here typing this blog post on my iPad Mini 2, the same device upon which I earlier was reading an in depth account of the causes of the Great Recession.

Ultralight in the front country means having an ultralight load on your time demands. It doesn’t mean doing nothing but, rather, finding what is exactly worth taxing your valuable time and doing only those things.

2. I’ve been able to reconnect. Getting rid of FaceBook meant reestablishing deliberate and thoughtful correspondence with intentional people. Even before deleting FaceBook, as I reached out to people to get contact info, it was nice to be intentionally communicating with some lost friends, rather than just commenting on their statuses.

Now, when I have something worth sharing, I send it straight to those to whom it matters. It feels much more clean and appropriate.

I’ve also been able to reconnect to things which matter to me. I’ve had more time to choose what to do with and I’ve filled it with things I enjoy. Walking to the library and perusing the shelves, reading books of topics as wide as motorcycle repairs to personal finance.

3. I feel more focused. Having less distractions on my schedule and around me physically leaves more room for me to focus on things that are truly important.

My to-do list today is about 12 items long and arranged on the Reminders app of my iPad (I’ve tried a few other apps but none seem to offer me any real value). I have the to-do list scheduled out so that i can get as much done as possible on one of my few days off.

4. There is little pressure. I have more time so I can go to bed a bit earlier, wake up a bit earlier.

I can shave each morning and enjoy the simplicity of a fresh shave with a clean razor (I’ve recently started shaving my head regularly). My drive to work is lazy, I never exceed the speed limit and watch as other cars shove part me to make it to their cubicle on time. Walking in to work I take it slow, enjoy the cold mountain air on my head and in my lungs.

With few financial pressures and absolutely no debt, it’s pretty easy to manage money. I work a job I love, make a very meager income, but still have more saved and disposable than most people I know. Of course, my “disposable” income I also save and will be happily investing while others are out buying 30’s of PBR.

Having ultralight finances and schedules means more time to enjoy the day. Just as we all love having a little more time to enjoy the morning on the trail with a hot drink in hand. Having a lighter, simpler pack, means more enjoyment of the trail. It’s no different in the front country.

5. I have room to make changes. From better time management and productivity, to exercise habits and long desired travel. With ultralight finances and schedule it’s so much more simple to find room for things I’ve always wanted to focus on.

Since I was a kid I loved video games and I still do. It’s a habit that’s stuck with me since I got addicted to the first Poke’mon game. More and more, however, in the past years I’ve begun to realize I’m wasting time. Finally, a month ago, I sold my very expensive gaming computer (along with a huge library of expensive games).

Why did I sell it? Not because there was something wrong with it. No, the computer was fine, and I took a huge loss financially on my investment.

I had been arguing with myself for ages to keep it because I’ve already spent so much on it. The other part of my brain, however, knew that playing games was slowly draining my potential.

Finally I just pulled myself up by the bootstraps and made the change I knew I really wanted to see. I wanted to move forward with my life more than I wanted to level up characters.

I wanted a positive direction for myself so much that I was willing to loose somewhere in the ballpark of a grand to get rid of a perfectly fine computer.

I’m glad I did.

Continue reading

Continuing the Ultralight Lifestyle

It’s been roughly a month since I’ve taken my disjointed passion for ultralight backpacking and brought it together with my interest in the concept of “minimalism”.

I’ve bought into the idea that minimalism is, roughly, defined as “removing all unnecessary clutter from ones life”.

This has lead me to get rid of two pair of skis, an old pair of AT ski boots, helmet, extra set of bindings, desktop computer, and laptop (well, almost).

I have shoved a great deal of my clothing into a box, leaving only enough for exercise and evening relaxation. Exactly one pair of jeans and two t shirts for every day life. To be fair, I spend the vast majority of my days in a ski instructor’s uniform.

My early 2008 MacBook Pro died a month ago and I was planning to trade in in with Apple’s recycle program. They were to offer me $0 for it and, considering my tendency to tinker, I decided to try to fix it. $6 later (for thermal compound) and a two evenings of work (one to tear it apart, one to reassemble) and I have a perfectly functional MacBook Pro again.

Turns out the solution was to bake the motherboard in the oven @375º for 7:30 minutes.

Anyways, with very few exception, I’ve spent the last month selling a lot of shit and accumulating as little as possible.

I’m moving back to a simpler way of doing things.

I’ve started waking up earlier to shave (head and face) with gel and a razor. It has become one of my favorite parts of my day.

I have more time in the evening to organize. Set up to-do lists, reminders, get in contact with people, and organize work and professional items.

I’ve been able to start playing footbag more often again, one of my on-and-off hobbies over the years.

I’m really looking forward to getting rid of my iPhone in May and going back to a basic talk and text phone. I love the simplicity and freedom I’m finding in every day life without being plugged in.

I’m able to save a huge percent of my income (expecting to save well over 50% this month) thanks to reduced consumption and increased awareness of my own personal finance.

I rode the bus in to work the other day (something I don’t do often because it’s absurdly logistically challenging) and it afforded me an nice hands off morning to listen to Dave Ramsey’s podcasts on finances.

Much like in the wilderness, excess items slow you down. They take up space in your pack. It takes longer to find the things you really need (rain gear) when you have to sort through three dry-bags of camera equipment and charging cables.

In the front country we don’t notice them. Even those of us accustomed to going with less while hiking often don’t realize how much stuff we have.

I have never been a chronic shopper, I have never held a cent of debt, I travel often so it prevents me from accumulating much.

Even so, after really focusing on fusing ultralight with minimalism… well, I’m curious to see how far this can go!

Going Facebook Ultralight

Well, after some planning and experimentation I’ve officially deactivated Facebook.

That’s right, Facebook, I don’t need you.

I found out the following in the process:

I really want people to know how cool I am by putting up pictures. No, seriously, it took me a while to admit this to myself. It’s really cool though because now I can purposely take photos of certain things and send them to people I think will appreciate them. Instead of just posting them on Facebook to get likes, I can share meaningful content with people I enjoy.

I used Facebook as a status symbol often. It’s painful to say it, but most often my Facebook posts would be sharing something badass I’ve done. There have been a few times in the last week where I’ve wanted to write up a status and realized I have no Facebook. It’s actually been really liberating. No one knows where I am or what I’m doing, I’m just doing it for myself. No one else.

• I can do anything at any time I want and no one cares. At first this thought seems kind of depressing. I go skiing on my days off and appreciate the beauty of the day. Mostly I just enjoy it myself and work on my personal skiing. If something is particularly worth noting or sharing, I’ll send a photo to a friend via message or call them.

• It’s actually taken a huge weight off my shoulders. I spend most of my time away from my childhood friends and family. Up until now most of them watched my doings from Facebook. Now, if I do or accomplish something particularly noteworthy I might tell those of them who are closest. Everyone else has no clue what I’m doing with my life. I like it.

• Facebook won’t actually let you export your contacts in any useful way. Before I deactivated, I downloaded a full copy of everything that’s ever happened on my Facebook (including contacts). That file lives on Dropbox, out of sight. Before leaving, I posted several statuses announcing my decision and imploring friends to send me their phone numbers and emails if they wanted to stay in touch. Some in particular I reached out to. Now I have a contacts list that is very deliberate and refreshingly clutter free.

I am really looking forward to moving toward replacing my iPhone with a basic QWERTY style slide out phone (always have been my favorite). I am rather reserved with my use of the iPhone compared to some but even so I find myself all too often seeing the world from the other side of an iPhone screen.

Getting rid of Facebook was an awesome first step I would encourage anyone to take.